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  • From the Editor: New Beginnings
  • Jennifer L. Airey

In 1696, over one-third of the plays performed on the British stage were written by women.1 Never in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries have we come close to matching that percentage.2

When I cite this statistic in my classes, it shocks students who believe that gender equality is already a reality, that we live in a postfeminist world in which women’s voices are deemed equally important as men’s. In reality, of course, our world still considers women’s writings lesser, too emotional, insufficiently funny, out of touch with mainstream audiences. We need only look to V. S. Naipaul, who commented in 2011 that “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me,” or to Mike Lazzo, creative director of Adult Swim, who recently attributed the lack of female writers on his staff to the fact that “women don’t tend to like conflict, comedy often comes from conflict,” to see recent instances of women’s writings being devalued and dismissed.3 Indeed, in 2013, Wikipedia editors were criticized for quietly removing female authors from the list of “American Novelists” to relabel them separately as “American Women Novelists,” silently maintaining masculinity as the default authorial setting.4

In her final preface to this journal, my predecessor Laura Stevens addressed the theme of invisibility, and I, too, take up that theme. I begin my term as editor in the midst of a contentious election year in the United States, feeling the weight of the many ways in which women’s voices are erased, overlooked, mocked, or silenced. It is a year in which prominent review publications such as The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and The New Republic routinely publish significantly fewer reviews of books by women than by men.5 It is a year in which women on the internet face a barrage of threats and hate speech for sharing their opinions.6 A year in which the husbands of female Olympians are praised for their wives’ accomplishments, in which references to a female news anchor’s menstrual cycle are used to shame and silence her, in which some still insist that the fifty-eight women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape must be lying.7 It is with full knowledge of these and myriad other injustices that I take up the mantle as editor of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, honored to follow in the footsteps of Germaine Greer, Shari Benstock, Mary O’Toole, Holly Laird, and Laura Stevens. Each of these women has worked to overcome the intellectual absence of women from the public sphere and the academy, insisting that our voices and our words matter. Their commitment to women’s literature and the promotion of women’s voices has made the [End Page 337] world a better place for all of us, and I hope to prove myself a worthy successor to this editorship.

In my capacity as editor, I pledge to continue publishing the best scholarship on women’s literature from around the globe, maintaining our journal’s international scope and broad chronological range. At the same time, I hope to turn our focus inward. We live in a precarious time for the academy, when slashed budgets, the casualization of academic labor, and a growing cultural disdain for the humanities (and gender studies in particular) have made it increasingly difficult for academics to pursue literary study. In light of these growing problems, it is my hope that moving forward, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature can serve as a forum for discussing challenges in the academy as they impact women scholars or the study of women’s literature. To that end, I would like to invite submissions for a new section of the journal called “The Academy.” I see these pieces, up to 2,500 words in length and informal in tone, as performing two interrelated functions. First, they will offer academics a scholarly venue for editorializing on the joys, problems, and pitfalls of being a woman or...


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